Eat The Press

samberg cover.jpgI was fortunate have the chance to report and write this week's this week's Village Voice cover story on Saturday Night Live as it enters its 32nd season in transition. It was a great assignment and I had pretty sweet access, including interviews with most of the cast members plus Lorne Michaels, attending two live shows, and wandering around at a rehearsal checking things out. Most of that is in the piece (plus this companion web-only piece which was basically an excuse to link to funny sketches) but, just as SNL must axe sketches on the road from dress to air, so too did some great little nuggets get left behind during the editing process. I bring you a few of those today, randomly assorted and with varying degrees of comedy wonkitude. Enjoy!

  • According to creator Michaels, an average of 40-50 sketches are read at the readthrough every Wednesday of show week, mostly written from scratch over the night (and morning) before by the cast and writing staff. Over the week, that number is whittled down to around 10 - 15 sketches by the time it gets to air.
  • Before every show, staff impressionists Bill Hader and Darrell Hammond have a little ritual: They go out and share a cigarette together. According to Hader, he gave up smoking but makes this one exception.
  • SNL players, especially those new to the show, are encouraged to use material they've already developed — Will Forte's Tim Calhoun, massively underqualified candidate for office, is a holdover from his Groundlings days; Andy Samberg's recent "Out Of Breath Jogger From 1982" was actually his audition piece, thrown in at the last second to fill a super-short timeslot (to go with his super-short shorts).
  • For Update inspiration Seth Meyers reads the general office fare (NYT, WaPo, NYPost, Newsday, plus presumably the Us Weekly I saw on the read-through table), plus Salon and Slate. Although he initially claimed to find the blog format unappealing, he then singled out Salon's "War Room" for special mention, saying he "loved" both the content and layout. I let him know that it was a blog. He then revised his position. Upshot: Seth Meyers loves blogs!
  • Fred Armisen used to be a punk-rock drummer, and compared the co-existence of SNL, The Daily Show, Colbert Report etc. to the peaceful coexistence of The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones and Elvis Costello when that scene was flowering. Do you know what rock and roll even is? It's not on your iPod.
  • Will Forte: "People compliment me on Goat Boy all the time."

More wonkery for the committed comedy geek after the jump.

  • The "borrowed camera" that the Lonely Island guys used to film "Lazy Sunday" belonged to Bill Hader's wife, filmmaker Maggie Carey.
  • Jason Sudeikis' uncle is George Wendt, aka "Norm!" from Cheers. Sudeikis, who originally went to college on a basketball scholarship, actually got into the comedy biz on his own, but submitted to SNL at the prompting of George's buddy Larry Campbell from "According To Jim." See here.
  • Sudeikis also seems to be the warmup guy, or at least was both times I was there. Both times he also recounted an anecdote from when Snoop Dogg was on the show: Apparently (and this is paraphrased), Sudeikis and a writer (sorry, can't recall whom) wished Snoop luck on the show and then his friend said, "Hey, Snoop, maybe later after the party we can get a ho." "Why stop at one ho?" said Snoop. "Why not three or four? Dream big, you may never wake up."
  • Maya Rudolph says Donatella Versace may one day be back, but there are no plans right now (she last showed in May '05); "Time Traveling Scott Joplin" however, has been retired since it was written by Slovin & Allen, who are no longer with the show (Donatella was created by Rudolph BFF and writing partner Emily Spivey).
  • Bill Hader was 'discovered' by Megan Mullaly, who recommended him to Michaels. For his final audition, he and his LA-based sketch group, Animals From The Future, were flown to New York to perform a private show at the UCB for the SNL cast and crew. No pressure there.
  • At the Oct. 7th show, I observed Lorne Michaels walking around between sketches, talking to people. When I asked him about it, he said that he was keeping an eye on timing and pacing, and that usually there's a person in the cast who is "a metronome" and keeps things ticking; he said Dan Ackroyd, Phil Hartman and Chris Parnell had each fulfilled that role, instinctively adjusting the pace as needed, but that that person hadn't yet emerged in the current cast.
  • Samberg and Lonely Island cohorts Jorma Taccone and Akiva Shaffer shot a movie called Hot Rod this summer (Akiva directed) with Parnell, Ilsa Fisher, Ian McShane, Bill Hader, and Sissy Spacek; Hader and Kristen Wiig also shot Judd Apatow's Knocked Up. Rumor has it that Wiig is hilarious and steals her scenes. So perhaps she won't be Gawk Stalkless for long.
  • On the 17th floor where the show's offices are located, there's a bulletin board of "Really Important Things That SNL Staff, Cast & Writers Should Know" with the NBC harassment policy, petty cash reimbursement forms, and a staff birthday list. Aside from the photos of castmembers past and present, and the fact that people sometimes walk around in whale suits, it is a fairly normal office.
  • Darrell Hammond taught himself to master impressions while working the graveyard shift "pushing buttons" at an AM radio station in Vero Beach, Florida.
  • Berfore SNL, Michaels had a short-lived variety show on in Canada with lawyer-turned-humorist Hart Pomerantz called "The Hart & Lorne Terrific Hour" which included a recurring beaver joke. No, really, it was an actual beaver joke; did I mention it was in Canada? (Unfortunately the YouTube clip has been taken down.) ferecito.jpg
  • Amy Poehler is one of the founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade theater, and can regularly be found there on Sunday nights, leading all-star improv show "AsssCat" featuring top UCB players plus people from Conan, Best Week Ever, Comedy Central and, yes, SNL (lots of Jason Sudeikis and Seth Meyers plus former writer Liz Cackowski).
  • Maya Rudolph was overheard exclaiming, "Oohwee, Tiara, that sounds good!" from Kenan Thompson's "MTV Deep House Dish" sketch. No one was overheard singing The Penis Song.

p.s. What's that you say? More cowbell? Well then, here.

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